Nearly five years ago, Metro Jacksonville covered the opening of Charlotte, North Carolina's LYNX light rail line. Today, we present a photo essay of the environment that has developed around Charlotte's rail line to illustrate what could be possible in our own city when community-led vision enters the picture.
The South End
The South End, is a neighborhood immediately south of Uptown Charlotte. Its beginning started in the 1850s with Charlotte's first railroad line, connecting the Queen City to Columbia and Charleston, SC. As time passed a thriving manufacturing community sprang up along the tracks, centered on the booming textile industry. The industrial area declined during the 1970s and 1980s, only to be revived in the early 1990s as restaurants, shops, and design-related industries discovered the old mills and warehouses, which were connected with Uptown Charlotte via a heritage trolley line. The area is notable for the number of renovated factories and eclectic mix of retail, commercial and high end residential construction. Notable businesses in the sector include the Design Center of the Carolinas, Price's Chicken Coop, Woods on South (the former Southend Brewery) and the national headquarters of Concentric Marketing.
South End is a unique urban neighborhood that hasnt forgotten its historical past. Its this combination of history and urbanity that creates a place filled with contrasting combinations that work so well together. Now served by both heritage streetcars and modern Light Rail, the neighborhood is the home of several transit oriented developments and an example of what rail connectivity could transform Jacksonville's Springfield and Myrtle Avenue Warehouse Districts into.
Now under construction, the Fountains at South End is an example of transit oriented development that has been attracted to the Blue Line outside of Uptown Charlotte. The $26.2 million, 208-unit apartment community is currently under construction adjacent to the New Bern light rail station.
The light rail line is a great location for new luxury apartments, said managing principal Stuart Proffitt. People can take the LYNX Blue Line to work, which means fewer cars on the road and cleaner air. Plus, rents will be competitively-priced compared to older communities with fewer amenities.
"Light rail sends a powerful message to the companies here and the companies looking to come here - we are investing in our future so our workers have options for getting to work," Morgan, the chamber president, said. "Transit is not a luxury; it's a necessity. It sends a message and symbol of how you as a community are thinking about the future."
Bob Morgan, president of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce
A University of North Carolina at Charlotte study last year showed that housing prices around light-rail stations closest to downtown have jumped more than 15 percent since light rail opened. Farther from downtown, housing values rose less or not at all.
Walter Broome, manager of Price's Chicken Coop, which has been selling fried chicken for 48 years just outside of downtown Charlotte, said: "At one time, this was the wrong side of the track. But people are coming back now. Real estate is at a premium."
When Metro Jacksonville speaks of the market rate economic benefits of fixed rail in the urban core, we envision projects similar to this being constructed in long forgotten and economically distressed neighborhoods like New Springfield, Brentwood, Durkeeville, LaVilla and Brooklyn. Between 2005-2009, Charlotte witnessed 9.8 million square feet of new development built along the 9.6 Blue Line, representing a total of $1.8 billion in private development. That kind of economic development, which hasn't been seen in the Northside of Jacksonville in over 60 years is something we believe would be good for our community.